How does the IAF perform aerial reconnaissance and surveillance missions during the cloudy months of the year?

Illy Pe’ery

The IAF’s visual reconnaissance squadrons refuse to surrender to the stormy weather. While dealing with dynamic weather conditions and addressing the needs of every intelligence element, they answered the most frequently asked question about aerial photography in the winter: How do they photograph through the clouds?

Cloudy Photography

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Relevant to Everyone
In order to answer the big question, we must take a few steps back. Aerial reconnaissance is divided into two major missions: surveillance and photography. Surveillance is a method which produces a live video feed, while photography is quite literally, stills photography, explained Lt. Yonatan from the Air Division. “Each method has its advantages and disadvantages – if we would take photos from surveillance files, the quality will be poor, but on the other hand, surveillance has a significant advantage by being live footage”.

Both methods ultimately serve the same purpose and are an integral part of the creation of a comprehensive intelligence image, from understanding small details in the operational territory and to reflection of the full image. Capt. Ido, WSO from the Air Operations Division, explained that the main purposes of visual reconnaissance are to scan operational territory in order to identify threats and gather pre-operation intelligence. “We can convey an exact description of the field to infantry forces, or alternatively understand where the best place to land a helicopter is and convey the information necessary for the success of the mission to the IAF”.

Cloudy Photography

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Know Thy Enemy
The IAF never stops gathering intelligence, not at night or in the cloudy winter months. “The need for visual reconnaissance actually rises in the winter months”, shared Maj. Shay from the Air Operations Division. “On sunny days the enemy knows that our reconnaissance aircraft are in the sky and operates accordingly”.

Besides the light transport and UAV Squadrons, “Sufa” (F-16I) and “Barak” (F-16C/D) also perform reconnaissance missions. Thanks to their activity, IAF HQ receives an accurate image of the ground that can identify objects concealed hideouts. “The decipherers receive grey photos that are translated to a clear and understandable intelligence image, which are conveyed to the elements that requested the photographed material”, emphasized Capt. Ido.